How Francie Grows in Brooklyn

In “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith, all of the Rommely women are described as made of “invisible steel”. All of the Nolan men are described as reckless and they have never lived past thirty-five  because of this. Traits from both Katie and Johnny carry over to Francie and Neeley. Although Francie likes Papa more so than Katie, she is more similar to Katie and Neeley is only somewhat like Johnny. Francie has the same “invisible steel” as all the other Rommely women, but Neeley is not reckless like the Nolan boys were. Although many differences are apparent between the two sides, they also have similarities that show in their children.

            Sissy, Evy, and Katie Rommely are all different characters in the book, but they all share the same last name, making them all made of “invisible steel”. Evy, although not mentioned much throughout the story, shows her care for her husband and others around her. Sissy is kind to anyone she comes in contact with, and even though Katie is stern with her children and argues with Johnny, she would also do anything in the world to save their lives. “Johnny knew he was doomed and accepted it. Katie wouldn’t accept it. She started a new life where her old one left off. She exchanged her tenderness for capability.” (Smith 97. All of the Rommelys, especially Sissy and Katie, have had rough times. Growing up in poverty and facing adversity is what helped shape their personalities and strength. Sissy comes off as a showy women at first, giving off the wrong impression to most, but once characters get to know her, they realize her true intensions. Katie has to raise three children, one of them she must bring up on her own. That in itself shows her strength enough. But to make her even more solid, she provides all that she can for her kids.  Johnny would also die for any of his kids, but he handles himself in a different fashion than Katie.

            None of the Nolan boys live past . All of the brothers are reckless and seem to almost kill themselves by the things they get into. Johnny, although an alcoholic, gives both Neeley and Francie unconditional love. He was always the more generous parents, the one saying “everything will be alright” instead of telling it how it is. Other than the fact that Johnny is addicted to alcohol, he is never as reckless as his brothers. “All died sudden or violent deaths brought on by their own recklessness or their own bad way of living. Johnny was the only one who lived past his thirtieth birthday” (72). The fact that Johnny was the most responsible Nolan, is a contributing factor in why he lived the longest. Francie loves her father more so than Katie, but she inherits more traits from her mother.

            Francie may have her father’s name, but she is definitely a Rommely women. Francie has to deal with growing up poor, having no friends, and other difficulties at a young age. She takes everything with a grain of salt and won’t let anything change her mindset. “Serene was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York. . . Somber, as a word, was better” Francie sees Brooklyn as a wonderful place, even though it’s not. She always has a good outlook on everything. Even if it’s not good. Most kids would feel bad for themselves, but Francie still sees Brooklyn as a magical place. Everything that life throws in her direction, Francie dodges and turns it into something she can work with. She truly is made of the same “invisible steel” as her mother and all of the other Rommely women. Even though Neeley is a boy, he carries the same traits that Francie does as well. He is not as reckless as his father, but also not as strong as Katie and Francie.

            Neeley seems to be a perfect mix of both of his parents. Not too outrageous, and not as strong as Katie. When offered drinks, Neeley passes them up in fear that he will become like Johnny. Neeley never does anything crazy, and will most likely start a new trend of living past thirty-five. Neeley sings like Johnny and is just as handsome as him. When Franice looks at Neeley, she sees a part of Johnny. “It was true them—what Granma had said: that the Rommely women had the gift of seeing ghosts of their beloved dead. Francie saw her father” (490). At this part of the story, Francie clearly sees Papa in Neeley. This shows how alike Neelet and Johnny are with some minor alterations. Unlike Katie however, Neeley doesn’t make the best of things. He is more of a kid who deals with what he has, but not in a thankful manner. Like most families both Neeley and Francie resemble their parents, but they are still independent in their own ways.

            Throughout this story the Rommely and Nolan family traits carry out through their children. Some of the traits or more defined, and some are more implicit. Either way, Franice and Neeley hold similar personalities as Johnny and Katie and this is what makes the family fit together so well.


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